The High Speed Pursuit of Olympic Gold

Former Huskies on Bobsleigh Canada's top teams

By Jeff Drake (Fall 2009 Green and White)

Lyndon Rush (front centre) and his teammates Chris Lebihan, Rob Gray and Lacelles Brown launch their sleigh
Photo by Charlie Booker
rushaction2

The middle of Saskatchewan may seem like an unlikely place to start a competitive bobsleigh career, but two former U of S Huskies could ride their bobsleighs to the top of the podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Football fans will remember Lyndon Rush (BA'04) as a conference all-star defensive end with the Huskies. The Humboldt, SK native knew he wanted to compete at an elite level; he just wasn't sure what sport to pursue. One phone call pointed him in the right direction.

"I came home from class one day and there was a message on the phone inviting me to attend a Bobsleigh Canada recruitment camp. I thought someone was playing a joke on me," laughs Rush

But the call was real. An initiative had been launched named Own The Podium 2010, and Bobsleigh Canada was scouring the country for elite athletes to invite to their world-class program. A recruiter had called Huskie coach Brian Towriss, and Towriss suggested contacting Rush.

"Football was coming to an end and I was thinking about trying out for the CFL," adds Rush. "My parents had just moved to Sylvan Lake [Alberta] so I thought I'd go up to the bobsleigh tryout camp in Calgary and visit my parents at the same time. I wasn't sure if anything would come of it, but I thought I'd give it a try."

Rush's size and strength were just what Bobsleigh Canada was looking for, and he was invited back. He returned that winter with a pulled hamstring that prevented him from pushing the sleigh. One of the camp evaluators suggested he try driving, and while some people might shy away from the thought of trying to control a 1,300 lb bullet as it careens down an ice-covered track, Rush jumped at the opportunity.

Natural ability soon earned Rush a spot on the Canada 2 team, which means he is the second fastest driver in the country. Canada will send two two-man and two four-man teams to the Olympics, and Rush is confident he will be racing for Olympic gold on home soil.

When asked what it will feel like to pursue the top prize in his sport, he is not sure. "I don't know; I've never been in the Olympics before," answers Rush. "In every race I'm in I'm chasing after the perfect run. Right now, I'm just treating it like any other race. I'll go out, do what I do, have fun and try to win."

 

Rush isn't the only former Huskie in pursuit of Olympic gold. Ken Kotyk (associate alumnus*) excelled in two sports while attending the U of S. Born and raised in Rama, SK, Kotyk has enjoyed sports all his life and played on the Huskies track and field and volleyball teams. When track coach Todd Johnson received a scouting call from Bobsleigh Canada, he immediately suggested Kotyk, knowing that the sprinter's explosive speed and natural athletic ability was exactly what the national team was looking for. Kotyk excelled so quickly that he was invited to join the team a week after his tryout. Now in his seventh season, Ken is a pusher on Pierre Lueders' Canada 1, the fastest four-man bobsleigh team in the country.

"I knew that I wanted to stay in competitive sports and compete at a high level," says Kotyk. "I saw that I could do that with bobsleigh. My goal is to win every race, win as many medals as possible, and this season I want to rectify the finish in the last Olympic Games."

Kotyk, on the left, climbs aboard Canada 1
Photo courtesy of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton
Ken Kotyk
In the Olympics, the final ranking for bobsleigh is determined by the combined time of each team over four runs. Kotyk's prior Olympic experience was at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, where his team placed fourth by 9/100s of a second.

"Competing in Torino was a bit overwhelming at first," says Kotyk. "We were really excited to be there, and the size of the event is just a lot to take in. Once we got settled, we really focused on our goal-to win a medal. To fall just a bit short was very devastating."

Kotyk suggests that the Germans and Swiss will be the teams to beat in 2010. He feels that there is a definite home field advantage at the European races, where thousands of screaming fans line the racetracks to cheer on their national heroes. But Kotyk also knows what it is like to compete on Canadian soil, and he is planning to use the crowd to his advantage in Vancouver.

"I'm really looking forward to 2010," adds Kotyk. "We raced a World Cup event in Whistler last year, and it's very exciting to be in front of a hometown crowd. In 2010, the fans will give us the extra lift we need. With the crowd behind us, it will give us that chance to win an Olympic medal."

The world bobsleigh season starts in November and the Canadian Olympic teams will be named in January. You can follow Rush's and Kotyk's careers at www.bobsleigh.ca.

 

* An associate alumnus is a person who has obtained a prerequisite number of credits but has not obtained a U of S degree.

 




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